3/16/2017 3:32:00 PM Wildcats playing for second straight state tourney campaign
Thomas Gillach led the ‘Cats in scoring in their section semifinal win over Princeton.
After an up-and-down regular season that saw Chisago Lakes go on streaks of both the winning and losing variety, they are hoping their recent play is indicative of a long winning streak to come.
They won their first two section games, which means they’ve now won four games in a row and six of their last seven. They now find themselves in a familiar place: the Section 7AAA championship game, where they’ve been the past two years.
This year, the opponent is the Grand Rapids Thunderhawks and the two teams will play on Thursday, March 16 at 7 p.m. in Hibbing. The Hawks are 23-5 on the season. They two squads didn’t play each other this year, but they did have a few common opponents, most of which Grand Rapids gets the better of. But, the Hawks did lose a close game to Zimmerman in early February, just 10 days before Chisago Lakes beat Zimmerman by nearly double digits.
It’s an interesting match up, one in which the ‘Cats should have the experience edge in.
The Wildcats got to the championship game with an opening round win over Hibbing at home and a neutral site win over Princeton.
In the Hibbing match up, the ‘Cats were expected to win as they were the two seed and Hibbing was the seven seed after having won only 10 games all year. Trevin Nelson led the team with 19 points and Arran Hickcox added 15.
“We had a great start to the game. The guys were ready to play. We jumped out to a 20 point lead very quickly and then let up on the pedal. Kudos to Hibbing for coming back and cutting the lead to one with about six minutes to go,” Head Coach Todd Default said. “Hibbing played very well in the second half. The key was we did not panic and we made a run at the end to seal the victory. A credit to my guys for getting big stops and making plays when needed. Come tournament time, you have to find different ways to win.”
CL then got a favor when sixth seeded Princeton upset Duluth Denfeld in the opening round. The Wildcats were hungry in the third match up of the year as Princeton only won seven games all year but one of them was a 17-point drubbing of the ‘Cats just weeks ago.
CL dispatched the Tigers 70-56 to earn their way against Grand Rapids. Thomas Gillach led Chisago Lakes with 19 points as Will Tinjum had 13, Nelson had 12 and Aron Johnson had 10.
“After getting beat just a couple of weeks ago by Princeton, we knew what they are capable of doing. They have a good club. We had to play a solid game and we did,” Dufault explained. “We were able to execute the game plan to a T. We made some adjustments defensively and credit the guys, they really came out with energy and focus on the defensive end. This allowed us to take control of the game from start to finish. Big win to push us into the Section Championship against a very good Grand Rapids team. We have our hands full but the guys believe and we are playing our best basketball at the right time. Very proud of the team.”